I celebrated my seventh anniversary with Cool Choices last week at the Sustainable Brands conference. The event, which is very much a celebration of business leadership on sustainability coupled with a strong nudge to do more faster, was exactly the right place to be as I reflected on these past years.
In April, 2017, more than 1,000 US businesses urged the Trump administration to strengthen the federal Energy Star program, rather than eliminating it. For these businesses, including big names like Staples and Ingersoll Rand, the argument is an economic one. Every tax dollar invested in the Energy Star program saves $680 annually, which is a return any businessperson would appreciate.
Here at Cool Choices, we are also a strong proponent of Energy Star. While we appreciate the economics, we also have other importation reasons for supporting the program.
Cool Choices welcomes hundreds of Follett Corporation team members as they prepare to kick off their 6-week game-based sustainability program designed to create a buzz around being green at work and at home.
Follett team members will form teams of 6 and compete to take the greatest number of sustainable actions. Starting October 24th, participants at Follett will earn points for their teams and win prizes by reporting their daily sustainable actions online, including saving fuel and energy, recycling, choosing meatless meals and conserving water.
Founded in 1873, Follett currently works with 70,000 PreK-12 schools and higher education institutions as a leading provider of education technology, services and print and digital content. Follett demonstrates a strong commitment to the communities they serve and to various corporate social responsibility initiatives. For example, Follett promotes good in global communities through its campus store partnerships with Alta Gracia, a clothing brand known for its implementation of a living wage in the Dominican Republic, and the Thirst Project, a water non-profit founded and fueled by students. Additionally, Follett promotes educational innovation and a love of learning through its partnership with Reading is Fundamental and annual hosting of the Follett Challenge.
Once again, the Cool Choices team sends out a warm welcome to Follett team members!
This summer 15,000+ employees at UW Health will be invited to take a unique approach to being green and staying well. Staff will participate in a customized Cool Choices 8-week sustainability and wellness program by forming teams and competing daily to log their sustainable actions online.
Participants can expect to save money and reduce their energy use, while also learning new ways to be green. The online game-based platform also collects great ideas from employees on greening the workplace; this means front-line employees can help identify specific and creative saving opportunities.
“We’re excited to try this new way of getting staff at UW Health engaged in sustainability and thinking about what it means in the context of healthcare. Cool Choices will give us an opportunity to build social capital around shared sustainability experiences and ideas,” said Shannon Bunsen, Sustainability Specialist, at UW Health.
“Our Green STEPS and Wellness programs are very focused on the impact of individual behavior change, building teams and creating social norms with healthy, sustainable actions,” said Ellen Houston, Clinical Exercise Physiologist, UW Health. UW Health is customizing their Cool Choices implementation to highlight the link between wellness and sustainability. UW Health staff will be encouraged to adopt practices that are both good for the planet and good for employee wellbeing.
“Folks recognize that a number of sustainable practices—biking, taking the stairs vs. the elevator, and eating less red meat—also have very clear health benefits. Broader practices—like reducing energy and water use, managing waste streams, etc.—also affect our overall wellbeing,” noted Kathy Kuntz, Executive Director of Cool Choices, “so it’s terrific that UW Health is engaging its employees around these practices that affect wellness both directly and indirectly. A leader in healthcare, UW Health is also taking leadership on environmental responsibility. Cool Choices is delighted to be able to help them experiment with a fun and social model.”
UW Health has a dedicated history of environmental responsibility that includes a focus on patient and employee wellness. Recent initiatives include blue sterile wrap and plastic film recycling, new BCycle docking stations and the addition of a Farmers Market at the University Hospital. Learn more about UW Health’s deep commitment to a healthy environment here.
The Cool Choices team welcomes UW Health employees! We’re looking forward to seeing the momentum you’ll achieve and impact you’ll make during your 8-week program.
Curious about how our program could work for you? Watch our fun 40-second video to learn more!
Cool Choices is enthusiastic about a new partnership with ComEd, an electric utility that provides service to approximately 3.8 million customers in Illinois.
ComEd is recognized for their commitment to the environment and this week they’re launching the Cool Choices 8-week employee engagement sustainability program. ComEd employees will take a few minutes each day to compete as teams to report the greatest number of sustainable actions.
The Cool Choices online platform and game is customized and branded specifically for ComEd’s implementation to increase engagement in and awareness of company-wide sustainability initiatives.
“ComEd understands the challenges in engaging people around sustainability–this is a quest they tackle every day. We are delighted to be able to help them experiment with a fun and social model,” said Kathy Kuntz, Executive Director of Cool Choices.
Welcome ComEd staff! We know you’ll have fun, save money and take sustainable actions that have a measurable impact in your game of Cool Choices.
We love when clients return to implement the Cool Choices game-based sustainability program for a second or even third time. We’re delighted to partner again with Inpro, a leader in the manufacturing industry with a truly remarkable commitment to environmental sustainability.
Inpro first enlisted Cool Choices to deliver an 8-week game-based sustainability program in 2014. More than 50% of Inpro’s employees participated in the Cool Choices game and reported actions representing almost $200,000 in annual savings!
Amanda Goetsch, Sustainability Manager at Inpro, explained, “Sustainability, in part, is about having fun while creating a more resilient and vibrant future for all stakeholders. Playing the Cool Choices game helped our employees integrate healthy and uplifting habits into their lives, while at the same time adding a little padding to their pocketbooks. Cool Choices is a tool that helps us increasingly integrate sustainability into our corporate culture and our employees love it!”
This month Inpro is launching their second partnership with Cool Choices. Employees at Inpro will form teams and compete daily to report their sustainable actions. Participants will earn points and win prizes for reporting actions that reduce resource consumption and help the environment. The Cool Choices team would like to welcome Inpro employees for a second time! We’re excited to see the impact you’ll make during your second company-wide Cool Choices sustainability game.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help you address your corporate sustainability goals.
Cool Choices recently co-hosted the Eighth Annual Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council (WSBC) Conference at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. WSBC’s conference features businesses talking frankly about their efforts on the path to sustainability. The tales are insightful and inspiring—I always leave the event feeling a bit more optimistic about our ability to address the enormous climate challenges ahead of us.
Our event host, UW-Oshkosh, for example: the Sierra Club ranked UW-Oshkosh the third greenest university in the nation. It was terrific to hear how local officials had accomplished this, engaging the whole campus around sustainable practices, despite a tight budget. Their story was echoed in a variety of other presentations where business leaders talked about saving energy, reducing waste, measuring impacts and mobilizing employees.
And it is not just about the presentations. I also talked to a variety of attendees who were working on innovative projects to green facilities, operations and even supply chains.
The community also highlights the benefits of businesses leading on climate change mitigation. As policy leaders negotiated toward an agreement in Paris, business leaders in Wisconsin talked about their real-world efforts to reduce carbon emissions while increasing profits.
Part of the bliss of coming together each year as a community of business leaders working on sustainability is that it feels good to tell your story to someone who faces similar challenges. The congratulatory pats mean more when they come from someone who knows firsthand how hard it is to shift an organization’s orientation. WSBC has built a community of practitioners and the community is strong, supportive and inspiring.
One of the most compelling aspects of this event is the networking. As usual, I was able to build new relationships. I heard about some difficult challenges and about a few outstanding victories. I helped a few people make connections that will make their quests easier and I heard a story or two I will share in the coming months to inspire others. I encourage you to experience this conference in 2016 to reap the benefits of networking with other business leaders engaged in sustainability efforts.
The WSBC Conference is Designed for:
According to a recent study, most of us are not—the lack of hierarchy makes it awkward for us to nudge a colleague when they are not following protocols.
This is a big deal. We know people are deeply influenced by the behaviors of others and this study tells us that it’s typically uncomfortable to influence peer behaviors. That means there’s enormous opportunity for unsustainable practices to spread across our organizations.
Envision a scenario where Joe leaves equipment running even though the office policy is to shut off equipment at the end of the day. Bill is unlikely to correct Joe because, well Bill’s not Joe’s boss so, really, it’s none of his business. And besides, Joe brings in home-made muffins sometimes and Bill likes muffins. So the equipment stays on, which ultimately affects Amy and Mike’s behaviors too; they see that others leave the equipment on so they do the same. The office policy is largely irrelevant in the face of increasingly pervasive social norms.
Cool Choices game shakes up this dynamic. Games give people permission to coach other players (especially team mates). Within the context of a game Bill will likely tell Joe to shut off the printer—because leaving it on is killing their team standing. And, instead of withholding muffins, Joe will probably laugh at Mike’s team spirit but he’ll also turn off the equipment. And the interaction might prompt Joe to coach Amy “hey, you’d better shut off the copier; Mike’s determined that we’re winning this game.”
We see this all the time. Playing a game gives people permission to coach, to talk to colleagues about their practices. And, because the conversations are within a game setting, the interactions feel appropriate to all parties. Ultimately Cool Choices inspires people to talk to each other—directly—about sustainable practices within their community. And those conversations lead to amazing results.
We talk a lot about the importance of social norms—that people are influenced by the actions of their peers. The power of norms isn’t limited to individuals—businesses also strive to look good compared to their competition. That is why businesses tout the awards they win for quality, customer service and, yes, even energy efficiency.
ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager facilitates business comparisons of energy use in buildings. Offered through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the free software enables property managers and owners to see how their properties stack up against similar types of buildings. Stakeholders can also use the software to earn ENERGY STAR certification for the most efficient buildings.
Because we know comparisons matter, Cool Choices was pleased to partner with the Great Plains Institute (GPI) and the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council (WSBC) on a report characterizing ENERGY STAR certified buildings in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin ENERGY STAR report, “Leaders in Efficiency: ENERGY STAR Buildings in Wisconsin,” details the types of ENERGY STAR buildings certified (schools dominate), the cities with the most buildings and other fun facts—including a photo of one ENERGY STAR certified building in Wisconsin that was built in 1857.
Buildings that earn the ENERGY STAR certification are more energy efficient than 75 percent of similar buildings around the country and use, on average, 35 percent less energy. Buildings that get recertified annually are on average even more efficient.
ENERGY STAR certified buildings in Wisconsin represent nearly 72 million square feet of floor space in the state. Publicizing Wisconsin successes and showcasing leaders in ENERGY STAR certification—can inspire other building owners and managers to use ENERGY STAR portfolio manager to benchmark their buildings. More benchmarking leads to more ENERGY STAR certifications, reducing energy costs and increasing resource efficiency—which is a win for everyone.
Recognition is Very Cool – and Inspires Us to be Cooler!
By Kathy Kuntz, Executive Director
We’ve had a lot to celebrate lately!
In early October Menasha Corporation won an Innovation Award from the Campbell Institute and the Stewardship Action Council for their employee engagement efforts with Cool Choices and then, a few weeks later, In Business Magazine honored Cool Choices as its Eco Service of the Year!
Recognition is an interesting thing. It feels great to get that pat on the back for your past efforts but recognition is not just about the past. Recognition also prompts us to try harder going forward – to prove that the recognition was deserved and to gain more recognition.
The power of recognition to inspire additional positive efforts is one of the principles we use at Cool Choices. We partner with companies and public entities to engage employees around sustainability – to make sustainable practices the norm in workplace communities. And in our work we show companies how recognizing and celebrating the good stuff – even when it’s small – can inspire employees to do more.
As sustainability professionals we spend a great deal of time thinking about what’s not working – the number of employees who forgot to turn off their computers, the still-imperfect ratios of waste to recycling, those single-sided copies… Cool Choices’ programs demonstrate the power of positive reinforcement – when you celebrate what some employees are doing right it can motivate others to change their practices so that they get kudos too.
Yes, the recognition is much appreciated. We also appreciate that it will inspire us to continue to rock the expectations of our partners going forward.